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Archive for October, 2012

Happy Halloween everyone! For your amusement, enjoy this photo of my jack o’lantern from last year. My records show that I was really on the ball in 2011, a super-organized mom who carved this pumpkin well in advance of the holiday:

Christmas tree jack-o-lantern

A very merry Halloween to you!

Yup, I was either a week late for Halloween or seven weeks early for Christmas. Go me!

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If you live in Southern California and are looking for something fun to do on Saturday November 3, 2012, go check out my husband’s band The Strings, playing at Big’s in Fullerton to help raise funds for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer (The American Cancer Society).

Band flyer

Those are quite the top hats!

If you can’t make it or you just want a preview of how awesome The Strings sound, have a listen to this cover version of the song “She” by Green Day. As a bonus, the guys were dressed in Halloween costumes. The vampire on the bass is my hubby. At one point during the song, the LA County sheriffs arrive, but that doesn’t stop the boys! The police officers came out two more times during that night, but never shut them down. I think they secretly appreciated the music!

Go on out to Big’s to hear some great music and support a wonderful cause! My “top hats” and I will be at home, taking care of the kids, but I’ll be at Big’s in spirit!

Have you raised funds for any charity in the last year? Do you join any race teams for a good cause? I haven’t done any fundraising in the last year (beyond paying race fees for charity races), although I have made it a point this year to support any of my friends who have walked or run in support of a charity. I’ve got some generous, motivated friends who have raised funds for Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, the American Cancer Society, Bike MS (multiple sclerosis), A Light of Hope Support Center, and Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis.

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I knew it was Halloween weekend when on my 13-mile run I saw a lady pirate and a skeleton pass me on the trail! Thus happily entertained (and with my friend Stephanie to chat with me for the last 7 miles) I managed to complete the run in 2:01 at an average 9:18 pace including the first mile as a slower warm-up. I’m very happy with that, especially given that it was 84 degrees out with high Santa Ana winds. The only thing I wish in retrospect is that I’d run those 13 miles for a medal at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon on Sunday! What a crackup to see the clever costumes for the race, my favorite being the Runaway Brides!

After my run my family and I donned costumes and headed to my cousin’s House of Hurl for a fun Halloween dinner.

Halloween vampires

This is me two years ago, a few days after I died my hair with henna. Just imagine me now about 15 pounds lighter and with darker hair!

The House of Hurl Halloween Party menu:

Appetizers
Dried Bat Wings w/Gangrene Sauce and Chopped Monster Guts (chips with guacamole and salsa)
Devil’s Eyeballs (deviled eggs topped with olives)

Beverages
Mummy’s Milk (lemonade)
Vampire Blood (red wine)

Main Course
Graveyard Worms (a spaghetti-like tube pasta called perciatelli)
Zombie Brains in Fresh Blood Sauce (meatballs in marinara sauce)
Witches’ Fingers w/Pus (breadsticks with olive “fingernails” glued on with butter)
Frankenstein Skin, lightly dressed w/Slime (Caesar salad)

Dessert
Bloody Creepy Crawly Cakes (spider cupcakes)
Werewolf Turds (Baby Ruth bars)
Haunted House Rat (large red gummy rats!)

Batwings with dip

Dried batwings with gangrene sauce and chopped monster guts

Devil's eyeballs

I gobbled up several devil’s eyeballs

flower centerpiece

The dead flowers for a centerpiece were a nice touch!

vampire blood wine

This vampire skipped the vampire blood but appreciated the hospitality!

meatballs in sauce

Zombie brains in fresh blood sauce – yum! Served with “graveyard worms” perciatelli pasta

Halloween treats

Dragon scales (red pepper flakes), mummy wrapping flakes (parmesan cheese) and dragon eyeballs (fresh mozzarella with olives)

witches' fingers

The witch fingers breadsticks were a huge hit with my kids

Halloween salad

Frankenstein skin lightly dressed with slime

Halloween desserts

The werewolf turds and spider cupcakes were delicious!

I hope you all have a spooktacular Halloween! What is your costume going to be this year? I’m getting the most out of that vampire costume!

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Marathon Countdown

It’s getting real. Way back in the beginning of May, I signed up for the Santa Barbara International Marathon on November 10. Yes, I signed up six months in advance. I like to have a race on my calendar. I don’t like racing, particularly, but I like having a race in place on the horizon. Now here we are at the end of October, and it’s getting real.

countdown

Taper has begun. At this point I’m excited about tapering and seeing if I can get that pesky groin injury to heal completely in time for the race. I did it before in half marathon training, I can do it again now, right? RIGHT?! The plantar fasciitis is a non-issue, I’m happy to report. I have beaten it into submission and it does not affect how I run or how fast I run. (More on my thoughts on how to conquer plantar fasciitis later).

I don’t want to push it at this point so Tuesday’s speed run of 8x800s at a ridiculously fast pace got converted into four miles at marathon pace (9:06) plus a half-mile each for warm up and cool down. Yesterday I hit the spin bike for 40 minutes plus 25 minutes of upper body machines at the gym. For today’s tempo run, I was determined to follow the training plan exactly: 1 mile easy, 5 miles at 8:25, 1 mile easy. How did it go?

8:23
8:28
8:22
8:21
8:20

for an average of 8:23. Booyah!

The thing is, I had a lot riding on this workout. It’s not that I needed the physical training or that I think any training at this point will help me run faster on race day. It’s that I needed the mental boost to know that I can do it. That I did it. That it’s not crazy to attempt run the marathon in 16 days. Mission accomplished and I feel great. Now if I can just hit 9:06 for 13 miles on Saturday….

How is your training going? How far in advance do you sign up for a race?

Image credit: Gürkan Kurt

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Spoiler alert: I highly recommend the SheROX San Diego sprint and super sprint triathlons and I suspect the rest of the SheROX triathlon series is fabulous as well. I’ve done this race twice and I enjoyed it both years.

Registration: I registered early in March for the race in October, and paid $83.25 for the sprint.

Expo: You need to make three stops when you enter the outdoor expo — packet pickup, body marking, and t-shirt and goody bag pickup. I love the v-neck style technical shirts I’ve gotten both years, although the super bright pink this year is a little bold for me.

SheROX technical shirt

I fear my camera does not do justice to the bright pink.

It’ll make a good safety shirt when I ride the bike because people will have no trouble seeing me in that thing! There were several booths selling technical shirts, triathlon tees, wetsuits and swimsuits. Luna Bars gave away samples of their flavors, free crispy bars for the kids, and posters for the kids to make race signs. Last year the San Diego sheriffs department was out recruiting at the expo! Love that!

Parking: Parking at South Shores Park is convenient, close, and plentiful for both the expo and the race. On race day it closes at 6:30 before the 7 a.m. start of the race.

Location: You can’t beat the location in San Diego, right next to Seaworld, at South Shores Park on Mission Bay. This makes a great destination race with plenty of nearby restaurants and attractions.

Hotels: The Hilton San Diego Resort and Spa is less than five minutes from the race start. It’s a lovely hotel, not super-deluxe but nice for the $152 per night group rate. Tip: request a first floor “villa gardenview” room rather than a room in the tower. If you don’t mind being on the ground floor, it’s amazing to open your door to the patio and gardens and have a view to Mission Bay.

Transition: Transition gets an A+. Well set up and well marked, with bright yellow signs on the racks for the wave numbers, and clearly marked BIKE IN and BIKE OUT etc. banners.

Swim course: I love the in-water start on the swim course. Once you’re allowed to enter the water, be sure to swim out to the start line or you might not make it in time before the starting horn! The water in Mission Bay has been calm both years. It’s saltwater and a little murky, but it’s not exceptionally cold and it makes for a great swim course. It can be challenging to follow the buoys for the sprint vs. the super-sprint, but the race organizers do something very helpful — they send a boat out to demonstrate the course right before the race. Even with that though, I watched one of the elite triathletes one year turn left at the super-sprint buoy rather than continue on to the sprint buoy. (It’s comforting to know even the pros make mistakes sometimes!)

Bike course: The bike course takes you out on Fiesta Island. It can be intimidating due to the some of the turns on the course and I highly recommend going out on the island either on bike or in car to preview the course. Just make sure if you’re doing the sprint that you make the turn to the right to go out toward the campground. The course map has not shown that little turn each year. The course is flat with only the slightest of hills here and there. I do not like that the course requires two loops on the island (it can be intimidating to beginners to have to remember that) but the signage and volunteer direction is good.

Run course: Again, two loops on the run for the sprint. Nice course along the bay though and not hilly. You pass the one aid station twice over the run.

Vibe: Because it’s an all-women event, it gives off a great all-for-one and one-for-all vibe that’s welcoming to beginners. Indeed, the race site says that about half the participants are new to the sport. I have always found triathletes male or female to be a helpful, generous bunch and that’s certainly in evidence at SheROX events. There is a mentor program where experienced athletes pair with beginners to offer advice and support via email and additional training opportunities. My sponsor Megan helped me tremendously by answering my questions, giving me tips, and meeting up with me on race day to get me settled in transition.

I also love that SheROX partners with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund as its official charitable partner. Team Hope participants can raise funds in support of OCRF. The race even offers a special wave for cancer survivors. Makes me cry every time when we cheer those ladies at the start.

Finally, SheROX San Diego is a great spectator course — it’s relatively easy for family members and friends to catch sight of you on each portion of the course.

Post-race: One of the best things SheROX offered was a warm hand towel to dry off after the race. I’d never seen that before (not even at the race in 2011) and I hope they keep that feature! The food offered after the race is plentiful and good: bananas, oranges, two kinds of muffins, juice boxes and electrolyte water. I love that you can go straight to the race booth to get a computer printout with unofficial times.

Ways to improve the race: While I love this race and highly recommend it, there’s always room for improvement. I have four suggestions for the race organizers. (1) Invite food trucks to race day so family and friends can snag breakfast or a snack while they spectate. (2) Correct the bike course map to show the slight turn to the right out toward the campground on Fiesta Island. Without that marked, people previewing the course go straight instead of turning right at the Y in the road. I heard women during the race saying, “We didn’t practice this before!” (3) At the swim start, you’ve got to enforce the starting line. Make the women stay in line with the white buoy under threat of disqualification if they “drift” out past the start. It’s ridiculous to see athletes cheat by going up to 10 feet ahead and blocking the athletes at the starting line. (4) In 2012 with the rain, the bike course was wet. As I stopped at the dismount line I saw two women fall as they were physically stopped by race volunteers. Volunteers grabbed the bikes to stop them at the line, and the bikes slipped right from under the women. As an athlete, I’d rather be disqualified or penalized for crossing the dismount line than physically injured on a fall from the bike.

Conclusion: Love the race, highly recommend it, would do it again. Thanks SheROX!

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My kids and I love to pick apples in the fall. I find that children are far more likely to eat well if they are involved in the selection, growing, and/or harvesting of their own food. In keeping with that belief, one of the first things my husband and I did when we bought our house was to plant four apple trees to complement the existing avocado, nectarine, feijoa (pineapple guava), pomegranate, loquat, lemon and lime trees on our lot. Now I know what you’re thinking: apple trees in sunny SoCal? Yes, it’s true. You can grow apples even in the moderate climates found here in Los Angeles, Orange County and the rest of Southern California.

Did you know that there are over 8,000 apple varieties grown around the world, and several of those are “low-chill” varieties that can be grown in temperate Southern California? “Chill hours” is a term that refers to the number of yearly hours a climate has below 45° F (7° C). Most varieties require 500-1,000 chill hours, but there are low-chill varieties that can thrive with 500 or less. For greatest success in Southern California, the University of California Cooperative Extension has the following advice:

To ensure successful apple production in mild winter zones of Southern California, select from the following varieties that need less than 300 hr. of chilling: Beverly Hills, Gordon, Tropical Beauty, Anna, Dorsett Golden, and Ein Shemer. Gala has recently proven itself in Southern California except for the lowest chill areas near the coast. Recent U.C. variety evaluations in Irvine, CA determined that the best flavored apples were Fuji, Anna, and Gala. Gala was superb. The most vigorous growers were Pink Lady, Gala, and Jonagold.

Right now on my trees I have some gorgeous, tiny Galas:

Gala apple on the tree

One tiny Gala treasure

and big-but-not-so-pink Pink Ladies:

Pink Lady apple on the tree

Not-yet-blushing Pink Lady

Earlier in the year, we harvested the Annas and Dorsett Goldens. Tip: Most apples require cross-pollination from different varieties that flower at the same time. So, for best success, choose apple varieties that are low-chill and bloom at the same time, and plant them within 50 feet of each other. I always buy organic (and local when possible), and thus get my bare root fruit trees from Peaceful Valley (I have no affiliation with them, I just like ’em!)

While I was out looking at the trees, I took some other pictures in my yard. While we might not have traditional fall “color” in SoCal, we sure have some colorful beauties:

Southern California fall flowers

Clockwise from top: Bird of paradise, red hibiscus, white hibiscus, red “carnation” hibiscus, plumeria

Do you grow any of your own fruit? Have you had good luck growing apples? My own trees are not that big yet, but we’re getting more and more apples each year.

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When my alarm went off at 4:15 a.m. on race day, I woke to the sound of rain dripping down the hotel gutters. Darn it, my Twitter chant of “Rain rain go away, I have a tri in Mission Bay” did not work! I made oatmeal with hot water from the hotel coffee maker, then made actual coffee with the coffee maker. I had about half an hour to eat, get in my tri kit, and get out the door. Transition opened at 5 a.m. and I wanted to be there on time. I managed to be about 20th in line as we waited in the drizzle for transition to open, which it finally did around 15 or 20 minutes late.

I hustled to find the two long bike racks designated for wave 9, and snagged one of the prime spots at the end of the rack. I hooked the nose of my bike seat on the rack as directed, then set up my bright pink towel to the left, carefully laying out my bike shoes, sunglasses, and running shoes under the plastic SheROX expo bag so they wouldn’t get wet. Then I set about walking the routes I would take through T1 and T2. Wave 9 did not have a prime location but I had no trouble navigating transition and again this year I was impressed with how well the organizers set it up. Satisfied that I had the drill down, I drove back to the hotel to pick up my cheering section. My three girls were none too happy to be up at 6 a.m., but they were troopers as always, ready and waiting in their bright pink SWIM, BIKE, and RUN t-shirts. Unfortunately, the hotel cafe was not open at that hour like it was last year, so the troops had to get by on leftover California rolls and the Luna bars we’d snagged at the expo. Oops. Plea to race organizers: invite some food trucks to come to the race — my family loved the food truck at Nautica Malibu!

We high-tailed it back to the race start, just in time before the parking closed at 6:30. I had plenty of time to get to the race start and chat with a few nice women who had questions about the swim course or needed help zipping up a wetsuit. I think triathletes in general are a friendly, helpful bunch of people, and yet the vibe is even more welcoming at an all-women event like SheROX. Really perfect for beginners. That’s not to say that the ladies aren’t competitive. Just like last year, several of the women in my wave “drifted” several feet out past the starting line. Last year I didn’t say anything because those ladies were only harming themselves. This year it took everything I had to restrain myself from yelling at the women who “drifted” right out in front of me. So not cool.

Starting line at SheROX swim

That’s me, third to the left of the white buoy, trying desperately not to yell at the cheater cheater pumpkin eaters.

Still, I love an in-water start, and the start went well for me. The rain had stopped and the saltwater in Mission Bay looked as smooth as glass. If anything, I went out too strong and paid for it later. By the end of the swim, my lips looked blue from hyperventilating. When I practice swimming in the pool, I breathe every three strokes. Out in open water, I need to breathe every two. Obviously what I need to do is practice breathing every two strokes in the pool, as well as get in more open water swims in training. Still, I was pleased with the results:

2011 1500m swim: 14:44
2012 1500m swim: 14:24 (-20 seconds)

T1 went smoothly. I skipped putting on socks to save time and I didn’t miss them on the bike or run. No sunscreen, no drink of electrolytes. Just in, out, boom.

2011 T1: 3:22
2012 T1: 2:18 (-1:04) (my best T1 out of 4 races to date!)

As I’ve said, the bike is my favorite part of any triathlon and SheROX was no exception.

SheROX bike course

As always, smiling on the bike (in spite of whatever weird thing was going on with my bike helmet strap)

The bike course seemed more crowded than the year before and I later learned there were 684 competitors, nearly 90 more athletes this year than last. Not particularly large for a race, but noticeable for me when I’m passing people on the bike (and they are passing me on the run!) It started to drizzle again as I made my second loop on the bike course. The road had never dried up from the morning anyway, and the rain did not bother me, but I am not willing to risk life or limb, so I took it a little slower in the turns on the course.

2011 20K bike: 37:55 (19.67 mph)
2012 20K bike: 38:26 (+ 31 seconds)

Transition two was fine. Part of the reason T1 was faster this year was that I saved putting on my race belt until T2. That doesn’t account for all the difference though.

2011 T2: 1:21
2012 T2: 2:18 (+ 57 seconds)

The run was tough for me. I had hoped to improve on my run time by a lot, given all the half marathon and marathon training I’d done in the past year. But of course, running 20 miles three days before for my current training, and not tapering for this race, meant my legs just didn’t have it in them.

SheROX run course

Still happy to be on the run

2011 5K run: 26:38
2012 5K run: 29:04 (+2:26)

I was happy to finish, and happy to see my family at the finish line. They, starving at this point, were happy to see my race finish line treats — muffins and juice box and banana and orange.

SheROX finish

Not sure I even accomplished the goal of getting a better finish line photo. I tried to finish strong and not do anything goofy, but I pretty much look like I want to punch someone.

2011 sprint tri final results: 1:23:57
2012 sprint tri final results: 1:25:53 (+1:56)

So, faster on the swim and T1, slower on the bike, T2 and the run. It’s the run that bums me out. You know, before I started training for the marathon, I had already signed up for Nautica Malibu and SheROX. I asked a more experienced runner if I should bow out of the triathlons, and she said yes. She said I should just write off those triathlons and focus on the goal race. Now I have to grudgingly admit, she was right. It’s possible that overtraining for the triathlons and the marathon led to the plantar fasciitis and groin injury I’ve been battling. And it’s clear that running 20 miles and not tapering before the triathlon results in less than optimal performance. It helps me to go through the race and analyze what happened (not making excuses, but learning from the experience). After getting over the initial disappointment of not getting a PR, I am pleased overall and more than ready to focus all my attention now on these last three weeks of marathon training. Santa Barbara International Marathon, here I come!

Did you race SheROX or elsewhere this weekend? How did it go?

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